It was about 6:27pm on a cool Friday. I arrived home with the very heavy books I had been carrying around all week. It was the week of my qualis and nothing was on my mind than how to respond to the questions my committee had dug up to injure my intellectual self. I opened the door with the same reckless abandon I am known for. Right on, my bed was a totally naked woman? In this holy week of thinking, sweating and constructing ideas? Too many questions raced through my mind, is this a trap? Can this be part of my qualis? Did the committee set me up to see if I would fall? Nooo the academy is too pure to do such a thing. I was still glued to the same spot when a thought from the depth of the earth leapt at me.
Ok, let me rewind a little bit to give you a better picture of the country I left behind. It was the era of the Akinloyes of NPN, the Richard Akinjides and all the other Akins (including Akin Omoboriowo of Ondo!). I was a young reporter with one of the underground newspapers (for security purposes I shall not reveal the name). It was not the era of computers or advanced communication devices. Stories were shouted from the field to the newsrooms and most of us wrote our stories long hand. The pictures used in the papers were developed from Black & White films and printed quickly in a dark room.
If you are not too young reading this, how can you forget the dreaded Sunday Adewusi and his side kick Mallam Mohammed Lawal Rafindadi? He was no ones daddy and nothing Sunny about Sunday Adewusi, I was after them and they too were after me. In those days, there was nothing they could not use to get at you. Ask the one we all call “220 pounds of steel and twisted iron” how many times they let themselves into his apartment in Ajangbadi. They will turn the place upside down and take nothing. This was their coded way of letting him know they were unhappy with something he had written the week previous. How many of their tactics does one want to recount just as counting the teeth of Adepele is fruitless.
It was our paper that leaked the story of who healed Dele Giwa before he was finally killed by the letter bomb. Nigeria was a hot bed of activism and radicalism from classrooms to newsrooms every citizen was up in ‘arms.’ Those who could not speak up resorted to reading of Psalms to ward off evil.
One day my editor called me to his office,
“Shut the door behind you” he said.
I knew something terrible was about to happen. I took the seat in front of him and he started the long story of how he thinks I would make a good scholar, media researcher and a thinker in the nearest future. Finally, he got to the point and informed me that one of the big funding agencies set up specifically for journalists offered our paper two slots and he thought I should be the one to go. The other one will be reserved for the publisher’s nominee. No prize for guess who that will be.
“Baba editor, why me?”
I protested with all seriousness I could muster,
“you recall I am part of the team investigating the use of expired tear gas by the Mobile Police (the kill and go, roast am like goat)”
“Yes, I know but this is an opportunity of a life time” he said with finality.
In those days we labelled him, ‘the editor’s indecision is final’ but today he appears to be dead serious.
I left his office not sure of my next steps. Is this a way of getting me off the story? Are they putting too much pressure on him?
It was just the time when the newsroom becomes a market where legs and fingers are in such great motion and commotion if you like. I spoke to no one that day.
News good or bad has wings and legs. I had not settled well in my rickety chair in front of ‘madam nose for news’ that the sound of congratulations filled the air, someone brought out a bottle of Bollinger Champagne and pop! went the sound. There was merry making in the dimly lit newsroom.
It took all of 6 weeks to get me out of the country to this place. I will save the story of my first few days in graduate school for another day.
Now back to the story of the naked woman I met in my room. You may be mad at me if I say that it was one of the fine arts graduate student who was testing his new lighting creation. What I saw that day was a very colorful projection of a woman on my bed. Yes you are right I did try to…..
(Diary of a Lagos Bobo in a fictional mood 10-5-2019)